Jorginho - the midfield maestro at the heart of Chelsea and Italy's European glory

Jorginho is someone who, for a long time now, has divided opinion among fans and experts alike. But he keeps winning trophies.

Jorginho poses with the trophy after the Euro 2020 final. (Image: Twitter/@EURO2020)

As the euphoria surrounding Italy’s magical Euro 2020 win was starting to set in, a video surfaced on social media of Italy midfielder Jorginho. In it, the 29-year-old can be seen singing “It’s coming Rome” along with Leonardo Bonucci. This is, of course, a parody of the English anthem “It’s coming home”. The song has been used by England for the past three years to show either defiance or ironic over-confidence, depending on who you ask. But one thing is for certain – mocking your fallen opponents in such a manner requires guts.

This action does, however, typify Jorginho the player. He’s never afraid to express himself on the field and he is a team man to the core. Indeed, it would be fair to say he’s been a vital cog in the all-conquering Italian machine.

Jorginho – the metronomic maestro

Jorginho is someone who, for a long time now, has divided opinion among fans and experts alike. His fans point out that his presence in midfield is key, as he dictates the tempo and helps his side keep the ball. He also possesses an underrated final ball and is a good penalty taker.

His detractors, however, point to a lack of adventurousness in his play as well as the propensity to make the odd error as reasons he cannot be seen as elite. Naturally, the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between.

He does have some notable shortcomings – most notably a lack of speed. That can make him susceptible to being caught out on the break. It is an area of his game he struggled with when he first joined Chelsea – most notably when he was outrun by a referee.

Yet his positives largely outweigh his negatives, meaning managers often use ways to shield his weaknesses while accentuating his strengths.

At Napoli, he was flanked by hard-working midfielders like Marik Hamsik and Allan. This made things easier for Jorginho who, as the deepest of the midfield trio, did what he does best.

At Chelsea under Sarri, he played the same position. There was, however, one small issue – he was seen by many as being a favourite of the coach. As such, when Sarri was coming under fire from the Stamford Bridge faithful, it was his star midfielder who became a lightning rod of sorts.

He was booed loudly by fans, but worked hard to win them – and the club heirarchy – over. He was named one of the club’s vice-captains by Sarri’s successor Frank Lampard. And he continues in that role under Lampard’s successor Thomas Tuchel.

How managers bring out his best

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Jorginho even after fans stopped booing him. Towards the end of Lampard’s reign, he cut a peripheral figure often starting from the bench.

This changed the instant Tuchel was brought in to replace Lampard. The German, who values keeping the ball and employing intricate attacking plays, saw Jorginho as central to his plans.

Thus he came back into the side – with mixed results at first. But as time went on, people realised Tuchel had done the one thing neither Sarri nor Lampared managed – getting Kante and Jorginho to play cohesively in one system.

Tuchel’s new 3-4-3 formation employed two deep-sitting midfielders, or the ‘Double Six’ as the manager put it. The Italian sat deep and dictated the play. With the ball he sat deep and made key passes, keeping attacks going.

Without it, he either directed one of three centre-backs where to be while plugging holes nearest to him. It was a role that suited both him and Kante.

In fact, shorn of the need to keep the ball or play easy passes, the Frenchman began to shine. He played the role of marauding midfield man to perfection, snuffing out attacks but also joining in as a midfield runner when needed. Of course, this was down to Jorginho being the one focused on dictating the play.

In Italy, the situation is different. He operates in a three-man midfield and sits deep. But there’s two small but important factors that explain his Euro 2020 success.

For one, international football is slower, allowing players like Jorginho to dictate the play easier. Plus, this tournament is coming at the end of a long condensed season. Thus, the pace of the game is slower still. That should not, however, take away from the tournament he’s had.

Jorginho for Ballon d’Or?

Italy came into Euro 2020 as a side that were greater than the sum of its parts. Their attacking and defensive play was cohesive, with everyone having a clear role.

In that sense, there was no true ‘star’ of the team – everyone chipped in when needed. But Jorginho’s role in the team did not go unnoticed.

In fact, such has been his influence on club and country in 2021 that there are calls being made to nominate him for the Ballon d’Or.

Of course, he played this down when it was raised to him after the Euro final, preferring to focus on the team’s achievement. But the fact that this conversation is even taking place shows his importance.

It is likely that the midfielder will carry on being a key part of any team he plays in. Indeed, he became the 10th player to play in and win a final of the Champions League and European Championship in the same season.

None of this, of course, will matter to his detractors. But as long as he keeps winning, surely their words will matter little to him either.

Shayne Dias

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